The Anonymous Widower

The Improved South Tottenham Station

South Tottenham station wasn’t one of the best! But just look at it now!

The lifts are now working and when the line to Barking closes in a week or so, it will make a passable terminus to turn trains back to Gospel Oak.

I was chatting to one of the station staff and they said that the platforms will be extended further to the west over the road.

As the bridge is new, if this is the case, it would have been built to accept the weight of the platforms.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Crossrail Portal At Pudding Mill Lane

You can get a good view of the portal, where Crossrail trains from and to the East enter and leave the tunnel under London, from Pudding Mill Lane station and the DLR line that passes through it.

I think in years to come, this will be the station, where parents take their children to see the Crossrail trains.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , | Leave a comment

The Class 700 Train Launch At Blackfriars Station

I took these pictures when Thameslink launched the new Class 700 train this morning, at Blackfriars station.

I’ll be very pleased, when I get to have a ride and take a look inside. I suspect six on a Sunday morning at St. Pancras Thameslink, will be a good place to start.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Vitamin D Deficiency And Atrial Fibrillation

I’ve just found a paper in the International Journal of Cardiology with this title.

As according to two cardiologists in Cambridge, the reason I had my stroke was atrial fibrillation, I should discuss this with a cardiologist.

I think my story goes something like this.

  • For some reason, I didn’t like the sun and kept out of it.
  • When I was diagnosed as a coeliac, I went gluten-free and didn’t get added Vitamin D in my food.
  • But C dragged me off to the sunnier climes, where now I can stay in the sun without problem.
  • When she died, I retreated into myself and didn’t go to the sun.
  • So did I get low vitamin D?
  • My GP thought so and I decided to drive around in my Lotus with the top down.
  • I eventually, had the stroke, I’d probably been just missing since C died.
  • Atrial fibrillation was diagnosed and it was said to have caused the stroke.
  • Warfarin has been prescribed to protect me!

I’ve added sun and vitamin D for good measure.

Until I can prove otherwise, my father who gave me coeliac disease, wasn’t so lucky and died of a stroke.

Did he have atrial fibrillation and low vitamin D?

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Health | , , | 2 Comments

Boom In Cycle-Rail Journeys

The title of this post is the title of this article in Rail Magazine.

These two statistics are given.

  • Cycle-rail journeys have increased by 40% since 2010.
  • The number of journeys where a bike was parked at the station increased by 75% in the same period.

You certainly see a lot more bikes on trains.

I think in the next few years will see more restrictions on bike usage on trains. Sometimes, there are just too many bikes, pushchairs and enormous cases on trains and there’ll come a point, when train companies try to cut the numbers.

I was talking to one of the driver managers of a company introducing the new Class 800 trains. He felt that the designers had not incorporated enough cycle places.

We shall see if he’s right, when the trains are serving their first summer.

As passengers have the space in the locomotive at present, if they turn up with a bike in the future and are told there there is no room, it will be an unholy row!

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , | 1 Comment

Are Train Coaches Making A Comeback In The UK?

There were two stories yesterday, where new coaches to be built by Spanish company CAF.

Both sets of coaches probably use the same basic bodyshell, running gear and electrical and heating services, so once CAF designed the sleeper trains, they probably have developed a vehicle that could be used for any profitable purpose.

At present the Caledonian Sleeper uses two types of coach; a sleeping car and a lounge/seated sleeper car and these are being replaced with an identical number of coaches.

But little has been said about the design and make-up of the new coaches.

I suspect, that we will see lounge cars with large windows, so that the Scottish countryside can be enjoyed in style, if the weather permits.

The new coaches will be compared to British Rail’s legendary Mark 3 coach.

  • I’m also sure that CAF have set out to design a coach, that rides better.
  • The new coach must also be capable of running at 200 kph., as Mark 3s do every day in large numbers.
  • Will the coaches pass the cement lorry test, as a Mark 3-derived multiple unit did at Oxshott?

The 1960s design of the Mark 3 has set a very high bar.

Even less has been said about the five car rakes of coaches for TransPennine Express.

But in common with the other rakes of coaches in mainline service in the UK on Chiltern and the East Coast Main Line, and in East Anglia, they would need some means of driving the train from the other end, which is currently done with a driving van trailer.

A DVT is very much a solution of the 1970s, although it does have advantages in that the empty space can be used for bicycles, surfboards and other large luggage. Hence, the van in the name.

If you look at CAF’s Civity train, it is very much a stylish modular design and I’m sure CAF, have the expertise to build a stylish driving cab into some of the new coaches they are building.

I therefore think we will be seeing these five-car rakes of coaches for TransPennine Express, with a driving cab at one end.

One of the big advantages of this approach is that trains can be pulled and pushed by any suitable and available locomotive.

Operators wouldn’t be tied to one particular power unit, so as more electrification is installed, they could change to something more suitable.

You also have the possibility of designing the coach with the driving cab as perhaps a buffet/observation car or using it for First Class, so that the other coaches are very much a standard interior.

The approach also has the advantage that if you need a longer train, you just couple another coach into the rake.

I’m sure that CAF have designed a rake of coaches that has impressed TransPennine Express, otherwise they wouldn’t have ordered the coaches.

Some people might think that going back to coaches is a retrograde step.


  • Chiltern run an excellent service with coaches.
  • Deutsche Bahn still uses lots of rakes of coaches.
  • Rakes of coaches are more flexible than fixed-length multiple units.
  • The most appropriate locomotive can be used.
  • Some passengers might think, that coaches give a better ride than multiple units.

But I suspect the biggest factor in the revival of coaches, is that a rake of stylish new coaches and a Class 68 locomotive are more affordable than a new Class 800 train. They are also available earlier.

Imagine going across the Pennines from Liverpool to York in the buffet/restaurant/observation/driving car of one of these new trains, enjoying a  Great Western Pullman Dining experience, as the countryside goes by.

If it is done, it would set a high standard for other train operators.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Food, Transport/Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Expanding The Scottish Sleeper

There is an article in Rail Magazine entitled New Destinations For Scottish Sleeper Trains?.

Oban and the Far North of Scotland are mentioned, as new destinations for the Caledonian Sleeper.


Oban station is on a branch of the West Highland Line to Fort William.

One of the attractions of Oban for the operator, is that it is a port.

  • Four ferries go to the offshore islands.
  • It would be so convenient to get off the Sleeper and then get on a ferry to your ultimate destination.
  • The Scottish diaspora would love it.

I suspect that Serco’s Marketing Department have the link to the ferries in mind.

Currently, Euston to Fort William takes twelve hours and forty minutes, with the train dividing into three portions at Edinburgh Waverley station.

To serve Oban, it would probably need the train to spin off an extra section which went to Oban.

At present it would appear, that you would get off the Caledonian Sleeper at Crianlarich at 0745, and wait until 1015  to catch the train to Oban.

If that is actually what happens, it’s not very passenger-friendly.

You can also get to Oban at the same time, by taking the sleeper to Glasgow and changing trains there.

As I suspect that the train operator; Serco are serious about getting more passengers to the Caledonian Sleeper, there would seem to be some ways to get passengers to Oban earlier in the morning, perhaps by timetabling an earlier train to Oban that meets the two sleeper trains better.

Once they knew that sufficient passengers were travelling between London and Oban, Serco could start to think about running a direct service.

But would it be a further split of the Highland service at Edinburgh or a split of the Lowland service at Glasgow?

The current frmation of the Highland Sleeper, is given in this section inWikipedia.

This is said in Wikipedia about the splitting off the train in Edinburgh.

The front two sleeping carriages are for Fort William, being combined at Edinburgh with a further two sitting carriages to make a four-vehicle formation. The middle portion of either six carriages is for Aberdeen, and the rear portion of eight carriages is for Inverness. Both the Aberdeen and Inverness portions usually convey one sitting and one lounge carriage each, with the rest being sleeping cars, all working through to/from London.

It might just be too complicated, to split the train for Oban at Edinburgh

The Far North

Serving the Far North Line to Wick and the intermediate stops may well be an ambition, but running a profitable service will surely have problems.

The sleeper takes eleven and a half hours to Inverness and the current local train takes four and a half hours between Inverness and Wick, which makes sixteen hours for the journey. That is just too long, when you can fly it in four hours.

The New Rolling Stock

The new rolling stock from CAF must be the key to improving the service for both the operator and passengers.

  • The current sleeper trains are not the fastest and are generally limited to 40 mph in the Highlands.
  • But even on the West Coast Main Line, the trains don’t go very quick, taking seven and a half hours for the journey, as opposed to four and a half for the fastest Virgins.
  • I would suspect that the new coaches will probably go faster and still give a good night’s sleep. Not that I have any complaints about the current sleepers.
  • Modern technology would probably improve the time to couple and uncouple the various sections of the trains.
  • The mix of carriages will give the operator more flexibility, with respect to the formation of trains.
  • Wikipedia has section on the new Mark 5 Coaches, which says there are 75 coaches of four types, arranged into four sixteen coach trains, with eleven spares.
  • As new trains and coaches attract interest in a train service, I would not be surprised to see the new coaches attracting more passengers to the Caledonian Sleeper.

Four trains is an interesting figure, as at present they only use two; one to the Lowland and one to the Highlands.

But for the first time in the thirty years since the original Mark 3 coaches were built, if the Caledonian Sleeper needs to increase their number of coaches, there will be a manufacturer, who will probably be happy to oblige.

Ladbrokes wouldn’t give me odds on CAF building new coarches for the Night Riviera.

European Services

The first two Eurostars to Paris leave at 0540 and 0701 and the first to Brussels at 0650. At present the sleeper from Glasgow gets in at 0707, but surely better timings between the two services would attract more passengers, who wanted to have a good night’s sleep and be in Paris or Brussels early.

I doubt there is any great demand for a direct sleeper service between Scotland and Paris or Brussels and the cost of the trains would be prohibitive.

But by interfacing the two services properly, there could be a market to be developed.

The new rolling stock with there more generous performance might mean that this is a lot easier.

Kings Cross

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Sleeper MD Considers King’s Cross Potential.

Apparently, passenger feedback from when King’s Cross is used is very positive because of the station’s better connectivity.

I have this feeling that if they moved the Caledonian Sleeper to King’s Cross. during the rebuilding of Euston, that it would never go back.

Onward From The Sleeper Destinations

If you are coming south and arrive in London around seven in the morning, you have lots of modern, comfortable trains to go onward to your ultimate destination.

When I looked at Oban, it struck me that the connections to the sleeper, weren’t as good as say those in London to Bath, Bournemouth, Cardiff or Paris.

So perhaps one of the things that would help the current service is good onward connections in comfortable trains. Abellio Scotrail are committed to improving train services in Scotland, so they may be doing this.


There is no doubt that the current Caledonian Sleeper is a valuable and much-loved service.  The fact that Serco are buying new carriages from CAF, is not an act of charity and must be because the company believes that they can improve the profitability of the service.

I believe that although eventually, there may be services to other destinations in Scotland, that in the meantime better onward connections may be a more cost-effective solution.

It also has to be said, if improved services work to Scotland, then they’d surely work between London and Cornwall.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , | 3 Comments